Ephraim Molingoana of Ephymol on the challenges of dressing South African men.
How did you go from being a model to a designer?
My mother instilled a passion in me for clothes when I was growing up. She always made a point of dressing us the best. I’m also a very arty person and even when I dabbled in art directing and copyrighting in advertising at one stage, I was always drawn back to fashion. Being surrounded by all these amazing clothes as a model made me want to start creating them myself. I enjoy abstract art, painting and drawing, which feeds my fashion work, but I’ve never taken it up professionally.
What are the challenges of dressing South African men?
South African men are still behind when it comes to dress sense. They’re not very expressive in exploring their creativity and it’s only now, in the last few years, thanks to online fashion and travelling abroad that they’ve become braver. It’s mostly the younger generations that are open to exploring fashion, the forty-plus guy’s are still very uptight and not very adventurous. To gain acceptance with something new, you need to do it in a small way, an introduction, not just ‘bang’ in your face. About five or seven years ago, a pink shirt suddenly became a hugely popular colour for men, whereas before, it would have been taboo.
South African men seem a little scared of high fashion, thinking it’s a bit feminine?
Definitely. It’s a very thin line that you cross. Some men will just go for classic cuts and then you have men who want something new. These guy’s will want a suit, and I’ll say “Okay, can we make that a bit sharper, tuck this in a bit more, add some more detail here?” Mostly this subtle approach works and they end up liking the finished product. I don’t think most South African men who wear a full suit to work are into high fashion, but by introducing something new, and small, in the form of edging or a tie will start a process of change in how men dress.
What do you see around you that makes you cringe?
OMG! Definitely those chunky boot shoes with huge rubber soles, worn with a suit. Some guy’s wear a beautiful suit with those chunky, ugly shoes. The muscle top is another dislike, and not forgetting those high-waisted moms jeans. Huge untailored jacket suits, that look like they’re floating, with sleeves that touch their nails also rank high on the badly dressed list. White shoes and a white belt are also a big no no for men. Also, what’s with wearing sunglasses at night?
What inspires you locally?
All of a sudden we’re hip and happening in terms of commerce, we want to be trendy and people have a desire to belong to the wider world. We’re getting excited about our huge diversity of culture in this country and we’re getting people from different parts of the world and Africa coming to South Africa huge. We have a variety of cultures to get ideas from. I’ve seen how guys in the mining hostels do their own sewing – some amazing work that inspires me. I’m currently using a lot of recycled garments that I mix with new fabrics.
Where’s your range heading for next season?
No-one is really considering the effects of global climate change at the moment. Longer winters and milder summers have resulted in more of a transitional collection. This means you don’t go too heavy or too soft on your fabrics, maybe somewhere in between to cater for a variety of temperatures. The world seems so tense right now, that people sometimes forget about the small things that can make their day, like buying a new shirt.